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Roman Families, Where They Went

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Two related questions (and moderators can decide if these are different enough to split):

 

Where did the patrician (or even famous pleb) families GO? Yes, I know that Rome fell, but it didn't fall by everyone dying. If I had time-machine cameras magically attached to the descendents of some particular Roman family of note, what would I see? Would I see them ALL dying off? Or would I simply see that they would gradually forget the family line they came from, stop speaking Latin, etc, right up to today where I find that I AM the descendent of a bastard son of Sulla and his German wife (or whatever)?

 

Bonus question: Why does NOBODY (literally, I assume) have a family history they can remember going back to Roman times? I'm not stupid - I know that good records were NOT kept - but you'd think with all the people on the planet SOMEONE would have heard their grandfather tell them orally that they descend from this guy named Marcus Whatever who was a minor backbencher senator. You know - some tidbit of oral tradition just happening to survive, and nothing too grandiose.

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By definition, ALL our familes go back to Roman times - we would not be here otherwise.

 

If you mean direct descent - in the male line - I doubt any?

 

As directly traceable - probably none.

 

The British royal family can trace their descent from Cerdic the Saxon c 500/600, but do not claim any connections as far back as imperial Roman times. If they cannot, who could?

 

Most Roman families suffered a problem with heirs even in classical times - lead poisoning may have been a cuase - note then many adoptions. Even in the early principiate, few aristocrats could trace direct descent to the old republican nobility.

 

Look at the Julians. Caesar had no son. His daughter produced no living heir. His line went on through a female branch, though even Octavian had to be adopted. He had one daughter, and all her children died early - Agrippina's line lasting longest but dying out with Nero (Agrippina Minor's son - she was Gaius Caligula's sister) Not a happy model really.

 

I'll be interested in other views/contributions though.

 

Phil

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Even if some family had survived... perhaps one that fell into relative obscurity long before the final corruption/fall of the western aristocracy... it's quite possible that knowledge of such a fact may have been dangerous. There was quite possibly a time when allowing the new order to have it's way and keeping quiet about heritage could've been the most practical solution to one's own survival. Of course, I am talking only a single hypothetical possibility and offer no basis in fact that could possibly be traced.

 

Despite this, a quick look at the numbers are in order... If the original Roman Senate consisted of some 100 patres as reported under King Romulus, or as many as 300 as established by Brutus with the founding of the Republic, it doesn't seem like that many possibilities in comparison to the population of the world. However, consider that of these 300 families, over the course of some 500 to 700 years (from Monarch to Republic to Principate) the number of possible heirs must be staggering. Were they all purged? Did all branches die out? What about third, fourth, fifth sons that may never have been enrolled in the Senate or any number of possibilites. Clearly any family member who fell from grace would not be considered a member of the aristocracy, but they would still be a descendent.

 

An interesting discussion even if proving the theory is damn near impossible.

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As I understand it, and it is by no means my field, the current view is that in a country like Britain, the Saxons etc did not massacre the Romano-British, or drive them into Wales as was once thought. rather, the native population of the old Roman province was (as I recently saw it put) "re-branded" as Saxon. The same thing happened later with the Vikings and the Normans.

 

Part of my family comes from Lincolnshire, within the old Danelaw. When I was younger I had a ruddy complexion and coppery-fair hair. On that basis, I would reckon that there is Scandanavian blood in me, but also a good chance of some Romano-British genes too.

 

The same must have been true of Italy - with Lombards and visigoths inter-marrying and inter-breeding with the old Roman stock, to produce modern Italians.

 

But as the city culture declined, many must have been forced into the countryside to survive - and we know from Pol Pot what can happen when urban-dwellers are forced to work in the fields. Many die.

 

There must probably be some Roman blood in a large percentage of western Europeans. When I said in my previous post that ALL of us go back to Roman times I was thinking of them. The situation will, of course, be different in the USA - German, Jewish and Latin American or Asian or African immigrants may have almost no ancestry from the right areas.

 

Thinking about it, I am aware of no Renaissance or even medieval Italian families that claimed descent from Roman noble stock.

 

Given the passing down of Roman family names (Juilii, Aemilii etc) it should not be difficult to find out from inscriptions and records whether any of the major republican families were still extant even by name as early as the time of marcus Aurelius or (say) Constantine. My bet would be on none - and if the name still was carried on, I'll bet it was by provable adoption not blood.

 

Just random further thoughts,

 

Phil

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Given the passing down of Roman family names (Juilii, Aemilii etc) it should not be difficult to find out from inscriptions and records whether any of the major republican families were still extant even by name as early as the time of marcus Aurelius or (say) Constantine. My bet would be on none - and if the name still was carried on, I'll bet it was by provable adoption not blood.

 

Just random further thoughts,

 

Phil

 

Agreed, by the time of Augustus... and following the various purges of the late Republic there were already several families that were already considered extinct. Consider another few hundred years of even more power shifts and political purges. I'm afraid I don't have time at the moment to research the validity but I did stumble across this interesting site.

 

Augustus and the Senate

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Here's a thought: the Italian royal family might have a bloodline/geneology recorded long enough, as would, perhaps, the noble families of Italy *might* have a similar geneology available.

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I'm no genealogist, but as I recall the Italian royal line is the "House of Savoy". Notwithstanding any intermarriages with other royal dynasties of europe, the family is north Italian. Thus more likely, in my view to be of lombard extraction, or of entirely non-Italian provenance.

 

I don't believe they have ever claimed a link back to Roman times.

 

Sorry to be a cynic!!

 

Phil

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consider that of these 300 families, over the course of some 500 to 700 years (from Monarch to Republic to Principate) the number of possible heirs must be staggering. Were they all purged? Did all branches die out? What about third, fourth, fifth sons

 

Exactly. There MUST be folks running around Italy who descend from a famous Roman family or even a non-famous senator or other mover-and-shaker. The problem is they don't remember. I suppose the sheer numbers of descendents of Romans had me fooled into thinking that (even with low odds) *someone* would have gotten a piece of their family story passed down to present times. But I guess the answer is that the odds are FAR too against it.

 

Which leaves me with an interesting excercise to do: I will try to make sure (somehow) some of my descendents in the future remember that they descend from someone who fought in WWII (my grandfather). When that's truly ancient history, THAT will be something to brag about.

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Many of the older famous families simply died out as suggested above. Wars had a part to play in this. The Julio-Claudians went a bit further and destroyed themselves in plots. Its believed that most, if not all, important families in the late empire were descended from slaves.

 

Actually I think its a terrible loss that your ancestors are unknown, and so do other people, which is why tracing your family tree is so popular these days. So much is lost. We discover who they were, perhaps what they did, their relationships, and when they died. But thats it isn't it? I want to know who these people really were, what they were like, what lives they led.

 

I must admit I haven't traced mine though. Too busy discovering roman lives!

Edited by caldrail

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An interesting discussion even if proving the theory is damn near impossible.

 

Actually with the right set of circumstances it's not impossible at all! Genetic Geneology is making it way easier to point people in the right direction. :blink:

 

I know a gentleman living in North Carolina whose last name is Blackard. Before genetic testing he was able to trace his roots back to early middle age England.

 

Once genetic testing hit the street, he had his haplogroups tested he found quite a suprise: he was J2, which is heavy Near Eastern - Mediterranean type that is found in probably less than 10% of the British population.

 

With this new clue he was able to then figure out the morphology of his family name and was able to conclude (through older records) that his ancient relative was a Roman garrison soldier (of probably Etruscan origin) that settled in Britain when his service to the Cohort was at an end.

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...With this new clue he was able to then figure out the morphology of his family name and was able to conclude (through older records) that his ancient relative was a Roman garrison soldier (of probably Etruscan origin) that settled in Britain when his service to the Cohort was at an end.

 

I'd like to know on what basis he "figured this out"!!

 

There must be literally hundreds of reasons for people of Latin/Levantine stock to have come to Britain over the centuries - as merchants; as ambassadors; as sailors; as political refugees.

 

I know nothing of the science involved, but it surely must deal in groups, not specifics.

 

How can he know at what stage the surname entered his family? Which brings me to a second point - how was he ever able to "trace his roots back to early middle age England".

 

What does "early middle age England" mean? Members of the aristocracy apart, most people would have great difficulty tracing ancestry back as far as the Tudor period. Is your gentleman seriously suggesting he got back to 1066? In the unbroken male line?

 

Surnames or family names were not established that far back - even noble names were spelled in different ways.

 

I think more and serious questions should be asked about this claim.

 

Sorry to be sceptical.

 

Phil

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I have to chek, but I remember that a noble family from southern France could trace their origins to the goth kings.

A direct line in family usually lasted in Middle Ages for just 150 years. After that the family died out with no direct male succesor or lost her noble status and was recorded no more.

It's true that british dinasty it's related to a saxon king, but they are just very distant relatives thru many other families.

For sure many (I believe most) of us have roman ancestors but we can not know who was that ancestor.

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Sorry to be sceptical.

Phil

 

It's no skin off my back Phil, it's not my claim :P

 

However, it was made by someone who I trust as a thorough researcher. There was still guesswork and leaps of faith made but from how he explained his record/evidence hopping it seemed quite reasonable.

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There's also the problem that freedmen adopted the name of their masters--sometimes even clients adopted their patron's name. Wouldn't that be troublesome?

 

So even if we could find someone with an ancestor that was named 'Gaius Julius,' it wouldn't mean that they were a Julian. Originally, of course, we could check what tribe they were enrolled it. It's doubtful such records exist, and the act of settling citizens across all tribes means that it's no longer useful.

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Didn't the romans themselves have problems with fimaly trees? They often claimed famous or heroic ancestors. Julius Caesar claimed to be descended from the goddess Venus didn't he?

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